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Americans express angst about perceived slights, biases, denial of rights, to the point some citizens now consider their own country and its ideals corrupt and unworthy. 

I’m not suggesting these social problems are not real, but I’m grateful that in the US a free society in which to debate, a gift from those who sacrificed, actually exists. 

In several countries in the Middle East (and other regions) millions are far worse off: freedom of speech and religion are suppressed, churches burned, women, minorities have no rights, and the vulnerable are persecuted, tortured, killed.

Perspective matters.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution 

statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

1-“Freedom of religion” is the opportunity to believe or not believe, practice or not practice, evangelize and proselytize, or change from one to another religion, denomination, church/temple/mosque, or none at all. It includes conscience and worship but is much more public. Authoritarian regimes the world over, including the Middle East and North Africa, often do not permit freedom of religion. 2-Yet unbelievably, today, the “First Amendment” of the US Constitution is under attack because some Americans, ironically in the name of tolerance, no longer subscribe to its ideals: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” 3-Do not let anyone tell you restricting these civil liberties – actually, I’d say inalienable rights – do not matter, for they are our “first freedoms,“ fundamental and essential to our present and future free society.

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020

*This article may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers at www.rexmrogers.com/. Follow at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.

Word is TSA is moving toward review and revision of airport check-in procedures. This is good. But I’m tempted to say “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Since the agency was formed in the wake of 9/11 it’s pretty much done whatever it wants to do. This is to say with news of any threat anywhere, TSA has added new, perplexing, and ever more personally invasive requirements for getting past security and on to ones gate. For a lot of travelers it’s become a toss-up as to whether they feel safer or just hassled to distraction.

I’ve written on this subject several times, I guess, because I travel so much. I see the inconsistencies from port to port, and I’ve been subjected to more than my share of odd requirements—take your belt off; no, you don’t need to take off your belt; put your shoes on the conveyer; no, put your shoes in the bins; take everything out of your pockets; come on through, it doesn’t matter you forgot to move a pen from your pocket to a bin. And so it goes.

I’ve also seen what I consider outright invasions of a person’s bodily space—not mine, but other passengers who’ve been chosen for pat-downs. This should not happen to citizens in a free country, because it treats them as criminals without benefit of probable cause, trial of ones peers, or a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Passengers have had it and are complaining loudly and more often to Washington.

I’ve maintained all along that there’s got to be a better way. Now TSA is finally admitting there may be, hence the openness at least to review the system. The agency is under political pressure and I hope it continues until intelligent changes are made.

I’m not anti-TSA, despite how this piece may sound. I’m certainly not anti-security. I am against knee-jerk reaction, un-reviewed procedures, lack of choice, inconsistency, and until perhaps now, a willingness to consider creative alternatives.

So, here’s hoping rational adult minds will prevail and we can return to some kind of normalcy that respects individual citizen’s rights and affirms propriety and freedom along with law and order.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Free speech—if you asked the average person on the street if he or she believed in freedom of speech you'd hear, “Yes.” In fact, most of us would defend the principle vigorously. It’s a precious and basic human right many in the Middle East are currently fighting to attain.

In America, the majority population enjoyed freedom of speech, even more broadly freedom of expression, throughout our history. It took us longer to establish freedom of speech for minorities, but it did come, if painfully, in time.

Now we live with it, which would seem to be a grand experience. And it is. But there are times freedom of speech tries our souls.

Such is the case of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court ruled 8-1 for the church over a lawsuit by Albert Snyder, father of a dead American soldier at whose funeral the church sponsored a protest.

The church contends God is killing American soldiers to judge the nation for its tolerance of homosexuality. Church members march near soldier’s funerals carrying signs stating “God Hates You,” “God is Your Enemy,” “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “Thank God for 9/11,” and worse. They shout at soldiers’ grieving families and spout hate in the name of Christianity. Veterans on motorcycles have lined funeral procession routes in an attempt to hold Westboro at bay.

To say Westboro Baptist Church is un-Christian, wrong, and reprehensible, as I've said before, is true. But they become more egregious with each passing funeral. Their words hurt families, grossly misrepresent biblical Christianity, and incite some to violent response. All in all, it seems like some legal remedy should be applied to stop them, and Mr. Snyder tried. But the United States Supreme Court rightly ruled in favor not of Westboro but of freedom of speech.

Sometimes defending freedom makes for awkward bedfellows. Freedom of speech protects the KKK, American Nazis, and various militias. It also protects the platform, the podium, and the pulpit. If the Court ruled for Mr. Snyder, which our emotion and all that seems just suggests, we’d limit freedom of speech. More, the Court would be forced to draw lines and create categories, further delimiting freedom. Emotion, however understandable, doesn’t make good law.

With freedom of speech, those of us who disagree with Westboro Baptist Church may say so. We can contend with their view in the public arena and through moral suasion perhaps win the day. The United States Supreme Court made the correct ruling, however difficult it is to take, thinking about Westboro.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

 

With the world’s attention turned upon the Mideast in the last week—political unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Algeria—a lot of words are flying around media and government about the hope democratic processes will take root in the sands of the Arab world. I hope this too. But I also know that democracy doesn’t just spring up full blown and ready to function flawlessly.

Actually, democracy comes with prerequisites. Certain beliefs must already be present in the cultural soil for democracy to germinate and grow. In our understandable wishful thinking about Egypt in particular we seem to have forgotten this critical consideration.

What does democracy require to make it possible?

--Belief in the Sovereign God who created, loves, is engaged in, yet stands outside, the world system, thus acts as ultimate accountability.

--Respect for human life and dignity.

--Affirmation of freedom of worship and religion, speech and expression.

--Belief in natural or human rights, the idea that human beings are endowed by the Creator, or at least for secularists vested by Nature, with certain unalienable eternal properties we call civil liberties or rights, i.e., life, and liberty of soul, mind, and body.

--Belief in law and order, including equality and fairness, meaning justice is blind, and the idea of property rights, meaning individuals own and are entitled to the products of their minds and hands.

--Existence of some reasonable level of literacy.

In the United States Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson included “pursuit of happiness” in his list of unalienable rights. While one might quibble with the philosophic concept of happiness, still, there’s a deeper even more important value embedded here. It’s the idea of self-determination, the belief each individual human being innately possesses the right to decide, to influence, and to craft their own future, which is to say in different words, to pursue happiness.

Middle East and North African cultures do not generally affirm these basic values, at least not consistently. Their religious presuppositions do not allow them to do so. Consequently, expecting democracy to flourish just because it’s established, or we wish it so, may be a false hope.

The United States tried to export democracy in the decades following WWII. We and other Western nations backed developing countries declaring their independence from colonial empires. Unfortunately, for the most part, our good intentions didn’t yield the results we hoped. Too often we helped set up a system and a leader, both of which soon fell to strongmen, tribal conflicts, or religious-ideological interests more aligned with the values of the local culture, but at odds with democracy and pluralism.

I wish for freedom and democracy to come to the Mideast, but I have my fears it will not, at least not soon. Too many other philosophic underpinnings are missing at this point.

The United States should step carefully, offering assistance but not leveraging results we think we want. We should have learned by now that what we want may not turn out to be what we hoped for.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

 

After considerable public reaction to TSA’s newly installed airport body scanners, they’re now testing a new technology that will reveal a fuzzed over generic body image rather than individual body parts.

I said earlier there was a better way than the unnecessary and humiliating full body image scanners being forced upon air travelers. But TSA and others argued, “No, trust us, this is best.” Looks like now: I was right.

The first test of the new technology will take place at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. The test will run for 45-60 days. So we’re not over the top on this just yet. The tests could fail. But at least TSA is listening to the public and working to find a better scanner that reveals weapons technology without forcing travelers to go naked into airport concourses.

The new technology will supposedly also allow TSA to do away with the recently installed security booths wherein agents reviewed monitors of travelers passing through the scanner, then radioed an OK. Now, because the image is fuzzed, it will likely be visible to travelers and agents can be liberated from the booths. So much for all that money spent on construction of the booths.

TSA and other government voices said the new scanners would save time. Baloney. Travelers are required to remove more from their person than ever before, belts, paper and pills in pockets, wallets, everything. None of which had to be removed to go through metal detectors. Getting through checkpoints and reassembling oneself afterwards takes longer than ever.

I’m not against safety and security. What sane person would be? But I don’t immediately buy the latest government line that the latest hot new security toy is the only only and the best we can do. That’s spin because it never really works that way. And this latest announcement demonstrates it. All that noise earlier. All that defense of what they were doing as “a must,” yet here we are with a possible improvement.

So three cheers on effort, but we’ll wait to see what happens.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.